Netanyahu invokes biblical precept for social distancing, says Mi Sh'Berech for Israel
October 16, 2020
In an interview with Kol B'Rama radio, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invoked biblical precepts in order to convince religious Jews to social distance during the holiday of Simchat Torah that coincided with Shabbat last weekend.
"Take care, there should be no dances on Simchat Torah," Netanyahu said, referring to the tradition of dancing with Torah scrolls in synagogues. "There is no greater desecration of G-d's name than if because of Simchat Torah we lose a life. Pray outside, keep the guidelines, and thus sanctify both the Torah and life."
"The Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) public is close to me," Netanyahu said. " I love them very much. I saw the mobilization of the Haredi public in the first wave and the mobilization of the rabbis to adhere to the guidelines. The Haredi public lives in greater density and that makes it more difficult, but it does not exempt us from trying harder. I address you in every language of request: and you should protect yourselves very carefully, keep the rules."
"There is no such thing as 'herd immunity," Netanyahu said. "Herd immunity means death to the herd. It is a death sentence for many thousands who will die. We have seen what is happening in other advanced countries that have gone this route."
"No one is persecuting the Haredi sector and I will not let that happen," the prime minister said. "But on the other hand, there is no special treatment either. If there are concentrations with morbidity then it does not matter if it is Haredi, religious, secular, Arab or Jewish, right-wing, or left-wing. Everyone must abide by the rules, we do not persecute any community, we persecute the virus and we persecute the disease."
Netanyahu described how the pandemic had affected his own personal observance of the Jewish holidays.
"For the first time in my life, I sat in a sukkah without Ushpizin (guests)," Netanyahu said. "I always host lone soldiers, this year unfortunately I could not. During Simchat Torah, as well, we must stick to the rules."
The prime minister also released a video with a personal message requesting that the religiously observant Israelis adhere to social distancing despite the traditions of communal prayer and dancing to honor the Torah.
"Tonight I address the citizens of Israel, and especially those who pray. We are on the eve of Simchat Torah, Simchat Torah is a wonderful holiday. We complete an (annual) cycle of reading the Torah and and start again from Genesis. it is one of the most exciting holidays where we read, 'For out of Zion shall go the Torah and the word of God from Jerusalem.'" This prayer accompanies us through the generations and speaks to me personally every Simchat Torah."
"And the same Torah, tells us to keep another mitzvah: 'And you are very much saved for your souls.' Without taking shortcuts, without saying 'it will not happen to me.' Our doctrine is a doctrine of life, so we must do everything to preserve our lives and the lives of our loved ones, and all of humanity."
"Do not go to synagogues. Pray outside and keep distancing. Do not dance. Do not get infected. There is no greater blasphemy than that because of Simchat Torah we lose a life. There is no greater disaster than that."
"Did you pray outside and keep the instructions? You have sanctified both the Torah and life."
Netanyahu then covered his head and blessed Israel with the Mi Sh'Berech, the traditional prayer invoked in synagogues for blessing particular individuals in need of healing:
"He who blessed Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Aaron, David, and Shlomo, may He send complete healing to any people in Israel who are sick with the Corona and expel this plague from us. May He overflow with compassion upon them to restore them, to heal them, to strengthen them, to enliven them. May He send them speedily a complete healing, healing of the soul and healing of the body along with all the ill, among the people of Israel and all humankind, soon, speedily, without delay, and let us all say: Amen!"
This article first appeared in Israel 365 News.